Sunday, September 19, 2010

Self Portraits

Above: Quick child's drawing without mirror.
Above and below: Careful pencil portrait study by six year old child with a mirror.
One of the most interesting and challenging art classes to teach is self portraits. We tend to get self conscious and want our creations to look just
like us. The key to loosening up people is to first have them draw a happy face or generic face in 30 seconds...then have them take their time creating their portrait with a mirror while using principals of facial proportions...these second drawings always end up much more expressive and capture better the essence of a face. The artist feels accomplishment at the end when assessing the difference between his/her first drawing and second drawing.

As an introduction to self portrait drawing, my lesson will visit the portrait works of Johannes Vermeer we will look at how he used light and shadow to define the face. Using the interactive whiteboard, we will overlay lines demonstrating principals of facial proportion.
Above: Johannes Vermeer: Girl with a Pearl Earring. (from
overlaying principals of facial proportions.
Introduction to Johannes Vermeer:
We will visit the Essential Vermeer , a fabulous site with much information to explore as one rolls over the painting with the cursor. One can even listen to snippets of music from Vermeer's contemporaries at this site. There is also information on the theory that Vermeer used the camera obscura in the creations of his painting.Above: Camera obscura portrait. Observe the blurry lines, soft edges and strong darks. Do you think there is similarity with Veermer's softness of painting?

If we have time we will be looking at as a site showing unique examples of contemporary digital portraiture and we will briefly discuss the use of value to create contours both in the digital art and works of Vermeer and van Eyck.


Step 1: Fold a piece of paper in half. Draw the simplest of faces, a happy face, in one half. Draw a quick portrait of yourself on the other half. (timed one minute) Compare the two. Is there a big difference?
Step 2. You will now create a more detailed portrait using a mirror for reference. But first, we need to think of composition: symmetrical or asymmetrical? Is your face peering at you as if through a window and we only see part of your face? Does your face fill the page? Or are you quietly sitting in the middle of the page?
Step 3:
Draw lightly the egg shape of your face where you want it on the page.
Step 4: Lightly divide that egg shape in half horizontally. Your eyes will go on this half way line.(complete step by step lesson info will be posted here soon.)

Did the student's portrait use principals of facial proportions properly?
Did the student use a dynamic composition?
Did the student use proper hatching techniques?
Did the student pick a consistent light source for shading?

Students walk around tables and give critique of each other's work. Have them say what they find interesting about each portrait. Then have them address above assessment questions.

Extension Project: Simple Camera Obscura:
As an extension project, students can create these at home and observe for themselves how camera obscura images share the deep darks and soft lines of Vermeer's paintings.
Detailed instructions are here at Make It.
I stuck a digital still camera into the camera box to take the round photo portrait at beginning of posting. I will be bringing in my inelegant camera obscura to school for the kids to test out. I think the key to making it work well is to also drape viewer and much of camera box with a black cloth.

Above: tube with black paper on one end and wax paper on the other.
Above: Wax Paper covers one end of tube.Above: Black paper covers the other end. Punch a push pin in the middle of the black paper to create a tiny hole.
Box to stick tube in. I first wrapped tube in a paper cone and then stuck it in the box.
See below:
Below:The end of the tube with the push pin hole faces out the back.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I love this project, and the explanation was great. The cutest part was your photo of your daughter drawing and looking in the mirror. I might actually just use this lesson in my class. Thanks for sharing!